Are Unpaid Internships exploiting young people?

Unpaid Internships are a pet peeve of mine. We all deserve to earn something for our work and it seems more companies are taking advantage of students and graduates desperate for work experience.

I decided to start an internship during my second year of university (don’t worry guys, I won’t name and shame you on here!) Excited about the opportunity of working alongside a great writer , I didn’t care that I wouldn’t be paid for my work, as it was a remote based internship. To travel to London every day and pay for travel costs as well as food would have pushed that mark.

My role started with simple jobs, looking over the website and social network sites to create a profile of the company and image. However, slowly the workload kept on increasing and I felt like I was being made to put my university work on hold for the internship.

I was told after 4 months of interning, I would be offered a permanent paid position – I soon realised this wasn’t going to be the case.  The company remained small and unable to offer me a wage, yet the workload kept increasing.

I created an entire film database of the top 50 films from 1995- 2012. After a painstakingly long process of staring at IMDB night after night, I was left wondering how I could use this experience in a way that would benefit me in the future.

7 months passed and I reached breaking point as I sat in a meeting discussing a £10,000 social media campaign the company had paid for. The bleak realisation hit me; they could afford to shell out for this and expect ME to run the campaign, yet they were still unwilling to reimburse me.

By this point I had finished university and the one-day deadlines would not work alongside a full time job. I gave the company an ultimatum and they still would not pay me.

Embarrassed and slightly hurt, I felt like my hard work was never really appreciated, and instead expected. I was just a university student, so why shouldn’t I be willing to work for nothing?

It’s unfortunately a common thing I see many other students doing and something we feel we have to do to gain experience for a ‘real job.’

It seems a norm especially in the film and media industry that students should work for free. It’s remarkable how much money the industry makes; yet there are so many people working for nothing.

It’s not right to be lead on and promised paid work after the internship if the employer never actually intends on giving you a penny.

I’m glad employers are now being called up on this and there are more campaigns in place to ensure all internships are paid.

Getting out of my internship when I did was a blessing, I notice the company are still advertising for new unpaid interns.

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This entry was published on February 4, 2014 at 1:32 pm. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Are Unpaid Internships exploiting young people?

  1. Pingback: Are Unpaid Internships exploiting young people? | Win more work in the Creative Industries

  2. Payton on said:

    I think part of internships is getting to know the people you’re interning under. It doesn’t seem that being far away from them is going to put you at the top of their mind to hire or promote you. It’s NOT just about the work put in- but establishing relationships over coffee or over lunch while interning.

    I have had many interns who started with me on features or television, who I DID hire later to work with me on other features and television. Some are producers now, or editors at magazines, or screenwriters, or production designers or hair stylists on features. I think it depends on the organization and people you work for. YES – it does sound like this situation did take advantage of you – but you had no way to win being far away from the organization. I don’t think I would want to hire someone I only had internet or phone calls with – as much as someone I saw at the office phyisically with me at 8pm at night.

  3. That sounds like a bad internship. They are often genuinely enlightening for up and coming talent. Gives good insight into how companies work. I agree that people should be reimbursed for quality work. but often graduates aren’t at the required level to get straight into client facing projects. internships can be a necessary stepping stone, improving work experience and getting talented people ready for the next step.

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